Japanese magazine Plus Eighty One (+81), a self-proclaimed pioneer of the bilingual magazine in Japan, has been around for over a decade. Standing behind its subtitle “Creators On The Line,” +81 puts out a well-designed quarterly publication focusing on creative pursuits in a wide array of disciplines. Aside from its regular issues there have been five issues of the Voyage Edition, which up to now has focused on specific cities, countries, and regions such as Brazil, South Africa, and Scandinavia. Newest in the lineup is an enlightening voyage into the world’s magazine publishing industry. Billed as a “Tokyo Graphic Passport,” it in fact covers six different countries and a smattering of other locales in Asia and the rest of the world. Part discourse on the industry on a global scale and part travel guide for bibliophiles and magazine junkies, readers are treated to a diverse and creative format. Filled with images of Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, London, New York, and Tokyo by photographer Taisuke Koyama, each city profile is broken down into several sections: an overview of “magazine circumstances” in each respective country, oddly succinct and fairly unnecessary histories of that country (limited to the European countries for some reason), a guide to outstanding bookstores in each country’s major city, a curatorial presentation of key magazines from each country, and an interview with a specific publisher/editor/designer followed by several pages of their magazine work. As the introduction notes, it is a chance to celebrate the appeal of the magazine, which was forced to evolve with the advent of television in the 1950s, as it is evolving once again now in the midst of the Digital Age.
The interviews, while short, are quite informative. Structured so that the interview is followed by the interviewee’s work, we get to know their motivations and philosophy before seeing the finished product and how it strives to embody those ideas. The interviews touch on aspects of editing, art direction, photography, design, and typography. People from around the globe are interviewed, yet they all end up echoing each other in many ways. Several themes seem to arise, all of interest to those of us here in independent book publishing and really any independent and creative endeavor. What’s being discussed here are magazines, but it’s all certainly relevant to the world of books, as art director and designer Yorgo Tloupas notes, “Books have shaped the modern world, and remain one of the most important cultural achievements of man. Magazines to me are just books made more digestable…” In the magazines featured here by +81, we constantly see the dual pillars of editorial and design resting on the collaborative foundation of a small group of individuals (sometimes only one person) aiming to share their own personal and passionate interests with their peers and contemporaries. In sharing these interests, there’s a sense of immediacy and enthusiasm unrestrained by commercial dictation. It’s a vision unsaturated by the views of many and one that is focused on the details. It’s about expressing one’s own interests, not that of a client. These are often very specific interests embodied in specialized publications targeting a small, niche market (contemporary Japan and New Orleans, anyone?). And targeting a niche topic is what seems to allow for far less restrictions on creativity. Ultimately, what all of this creative energy results in is a physical, printed object. What everyone shares here is a clear obsession with creating something with a physical presence; something that can be owned and collected, not just viewed on a screen.
124pages | 30cm x 23cm
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